Treasuring Christ not Theology

Do you ever have times whenever the Lord reveals something to you about your own heart that is exactly what you needed to hear regardless of how painful it might feel at the time? That’s what this blog post is about.

For several years I ran a website ministry called Treasuring Christ but for many reasons decided early last year that my time with this website ministry was done.  I was traveling a lot for work, but I was also entering into a transition period of my life that focused primarily upon building relationships through discipleship.  The Lord has recently revealed to me that those reasons are only a part of the story.

The truth is that I was treasuring my theology more than I was treasuring Christ. I was more concerned about “right doctrine” than I was caring for the needs of others. Theology is vital to the Christian life because it is about the study of God, but whenever it trumps  our love for Jesus and others you know that there is a problem.

I saw it unfold this week as I watched an acquaintance of mine on Facebook making it his personal mission to assault anyone and everyone who disagreed with his theological positions. He didn’t care who opposed him or who stood in his way as he angrily dismantled brothers and sisters in Christ who differed in their viewpoints. He tore them down theologically and then began to dehumanize them. It was an appalling and convicting thing to see.

The Lord was quick to reveal to me that this young man is not much different than I was a few years ago. I’m ashamed to say that but it’s true.  I left a trail of broken relationships because I loved my doctrinal positions more than I loved people.  This is why the Lord closed the doors on my website (and many of my relationships). I was treasuring my doctrine and not Jesus. I was loving the truth of Scripture, but I was not loving others.

It’s been an incredible journey over the past several years, and the Lord has been so good to change my heart and my understanding. It’s only by God’s magnificent grace that I can testify of a transformed heart as He has given me a Christ-centered love for others that I couldn’t grasp a few years ago. If you have been a victim of my theological tyranny in the past I am asking that you would please forgive me.

I understand that now more than ever, people are hurting and apart from Christ they are without any real and lasting hope. Spend any amount of time in a conversation with someone, or visit their Facebook page and you’ll discover just how broken they are. The truth is that we are all broken people looking for hope and meaning in this life. Paul Tripp refers to us as instruments in the hands of the Redeemer. We are people in need of the same kind of change that we are called to minister to others. This has been my heart ever since I first started meeting and counseling others back in the fall of 2014.

The end of the year is upon me and I’m finding that  Lord has burdened my heart to write again, and although I question whether blogs are still relevant in this day and age I am going to pursue where I believe He is leading. This blog will provides me with an outlet to share my heart in a way that social media does not, but also in a way that I should have been sharing the first time around.

This tagline for this blog site says “Leave this shipwrecked world and come with Me.” It’s a lyric from a song by the band Attalus which is also the original inspiration for the entire blog but it’s so much more than that.  It is the prayer of my heart. I am inviting you to join me in this journey to treasure Jesus by loving others the way that He has loved us.

” Sink or swim – don’t care. Just dive in – You’re there.”

 

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Stepping Out

“Step out from all the guilt you can’t shake. From consequences you can’t take. I know they kill you inside. Step out from emptiness you can’t fill. Your heart will be restless until you set the world aside.”  – Attalus // Step Out /// Into the Sea

The words to this song pierce my heart every time I hear them.  They are a reminder of the brokenness that we all experience in this life.  We are either drowning underneath the weight of guilt and shame or we are fighting to suppress it.  Are you weary and tired? Restless?  This song is also a reminder to those who are fighting the fight of faith that there is another way.

A better Way.

It’s a way towards a peace that surpasses all understanding.  It’s a shelter from the storms of life that surround us.  It’s a comfort that sustains us in the midst of affliction. It’s an assurance that serves as the foundation when everything else is crumbling around us. It’s an everlasting hope breaking the chains of despair.

The only Way.

It’s  the person Jesus Christ.  He is the Builder and the Foundation.  He is the Rock of our Strength, our Fortress and our Refuge. He is our Mediator, our Interpreter, our Intercessor and Advocate.  He is the Gift of God, the Offering, and the Sacrifice.  He is the Just One, the Righteous Judge, the Holy One, the Alpha, the Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is our Hope and our Salvation.

He is my Treasure.  He is the reason, and the motivation for everything that I do in life. Whether it’s working at my job, teaching Sunday School, preaching, being the best husband I can be for my wife, or being the best father I can be to my children, my aim and my heart is to point them all to the only true Hope that this world has.

It’s the reason why I am returning (in some kind of capacity) to the world of blogging.  Honestly it doesn’t make much sense in a world where personal blogs seem to be on their way toward extinction, but this is the platform that best suits what the Lord has put on my heart to share.  It’s a message of Hope to both the believer and the unbeliever because our hearts will be restless until we set the world aside and step out in faith.

That’s what this blog will be – a step out in faith.

 

 

Fighting for Faith

“A true Christian is one who has not only peace of conscience, but war within. He may be known by his warfare as well as by his peace.”- JC Ryle.

Fight the good fight of faith.” – 1 Timothy 6:12

As Christians we are at war.  It is a war that is greater than any war ever waged by man.  It is a war that doesn’t just concern nations against nations, but every Christian man and woman born into this world.  This war is spiritual.

In the book of Ephesians Paul tells the believers in Ephesus, not only what they are up against, but how we are to be prepared to battle:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, – Ephesians 6:13-18

This battle, although spiritual is as real and true as any war that has ever taken place.   This war has it’s hand-to-hand combats,  and its wounds.  It has charges and assaults.  It brings fatigue among its victories and in its defeats. There will be injuries, and there will be casualties.  Above all of those things, it has consequences, that when the fight is over, and the battle is done – the consequences are unchangeable and eternal.

christian-at-warIf you are a Christian, you are at war.

Did you know this?  Many go about their day to day lives without an inclination of the battle that is raging around them.  Paul said we are not fighting against flesh and blood.  Our battle is much more than this.  We are battling against rulers, authorities, and the spiritual forces in the heavenly realms.

In our culture we are battling indifference, apathy, materialism, lust, and greed, among so many other things.  The enemy is playing dirty, and he is out to steal, kill, and destroy.  Not all wars are noble wars, and not all wars are fought nobly. However I believe that this is a noble warfare, it is fighting a good fight. One that deserves to be fought.

Is our life not a warfare?

John Owens writes “Let our hearts admit, I am poor and weak. Satan is too subtle, too cunning, too powerful; he watches constantly for advantages over my soul. The world presses in upon me with all sorts of pressures, pleas, and pretenses. My own corruption is violent, tumultuous, enticing, and entangling. As it conceives sin, it wars within me and against me. Occasions and opportunities for temptation are innumerable. No wonder I do not know how deeply involved I have been with sin. Therefore, on God alone will I rely for my keeping. I will continually look to Him. “

True Christianity is a fight!

We battle three main enemies:

  • The World
  • The Flesh
  • The Devil.

These are the enemies that we are waging war against.  But how much do we know about the enemies tactics?  And how has God equipped and commanded you to meet the enemy? Satan wants nothing more than to break apart your family, weaken your convictions, and destroy the unity of your church.  He is out to crush your integrity and render you powerless leading your family, your church, your ministry,and he is fighting to sever your limbs leaving you useless in battle.

Fight the Good Fight

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:12

What you need to know:

First of all, it’s God’s armor.  We are to put on all of it.  We need it in order to withstand the spiritual forces of evil that are coming against us.

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.”

“Endure hardship, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

fighting-the-good-fight-of-faith“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand!”

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate.”

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong!”

“War a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience”

(1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3; Ephesians 6:11-13; Luke 13:24; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 1 Timothy 1:18, 19).

As Christians, if we are to pursue Christ, if we are to dare to pursue holiness – We must fight.  Where there is grace there will be conflict.  There is no holiness without a warfare. Part of the struggle is that we are fighting the wrong fight.  We do not fight against flesh and blood. That’s the first thing we need to realize.  Our battle is against something greater.  This is where I often mess up.  You can’t fight spiritual battles with fleshly weapons.

My prayer as I begin this new journey is to help the Church with tools that will help to strengthen and encourage one another in their daily battles against sin as we fight the fight of faith.

Suffering Well

I wrote this about two years ago, and I am amazed how the truth of it still stands.

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalms 9:9)

coffee-and-bibleGod has the power to to change the direction of our day at a moments notice. It happened to me today. My morning did not start off with the intention of praying for those who are suffering.  In fact, that wasn’t even on my agenda. I was engrossed in my daily Bible reading plan, my cup of coffee (fully loaded with my very favorite pumpkin spice creamer), and my journal.  My agenda was set.

It was an urgent phone call early this morning from a friend of mine that changed the course for my entire day.  We live in a world full of people who are hurting. It’s a world where people every day wake up in despair, struggling with depression, anger, and thoughts of suicide.  Millions wake up each morning with a longing deep within their empty hearts for something greater, something more, and most of them will fill that emptiness with things that will not satisfy their souls.

As the details of the story began to unravel over the phone, a sick feeling came over me like a punch to the gut. I knew where they were coming from.  I’ve seen the devastating effects of depression in my life, and in the lives of so many people that I love dearly.  I lived without the hope that they so long for, and for those of you who have walked down that road, you know it is a miserable place to be.

broken-world-broken-peopleI didn’t have to know many details to know the situation, or know what the outcome could be. I didn’t even personally know the person they were telling me about, but I knew exactly what words to say, I knew exactly how to pray for them.  I wonder if the sick feeling that I experienced was even about their situation at all or was it rather my familiarity with it?

I’ve seen the crushing devastation that a suicide brings to a family, and how it tears them apart, mentally, physically, and spiritually.  I’ve seen a family who has never recovered from the loss of their child due to suicide.  How can you ‘recover’ from such a thing? To even suggest you can recover from such a tragedy seems absurd. We all lost a friend that night, but their family lost so much more – he was a son, a grandson, a cousin, and a brother.  Almost two decades later there is still a emptiness in their heart that longs for the day they will see him again. If you were to talk to them today they would tell you about the pain they still struggle with every day over the loss of their son. I still continue to pray for this dear family, and I think of Eric often.  I’m amazed by the impact that young man left on my own life.

During my prayer time this morning I was reminded of the day that I came very close to ending my own life. I’ve never shared that story with anyone, and until today I had kept that part of my life dead and buried.  I was all alone. I was desperate, hurting, and empty inside. I wanted, no.. I longed to be dead to this world.

I remember the razors and the cutting.  I had to wear long sleeves during that hot summer month so that no one would see what I had done. I remember the night I sat alone in the bathroom floor with a knife, contemplating slicing my wrists, and I remember the tears.  I shed so many tears over the emptiness that had filled my life, and even more were shed over the fact that I couldn’t go through with it. So I sat there in the middle of the floor and I just wept for what must have been hours. Morning came and life … however difficult… went on.

I’d like to tell you that God saved me that night, but He didn’t.  One of the scariest realizations that I have of that night, many years later, is that I never even considered crying out to Him.  If I had died that night I know where I would be, and that is a terrifying thought.  You see, I thought that God was not interested in me or my problems.  Why would He want to be bothered when all I had ever done was hurt people?  I spent years of my life using women, cheating,  and wasting every moment  I had for my own self-pleasure.  Surely God was not interested in me.

I was wrong.  Like so many who struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide I was believing a lie.  He was definitely interested in my life, but the problem was that I was not interested in Him. For the next decade I would continue to live my life on my own terms, hurting others, and seeking any way that I could to find happiness, regardless of what it cost others, including my own family.  I was in a downward spiral with no end in sight, but thankfully God sees the end from the beginning, and He knew what it was going to take for me to come to the end of myself.  Even when I couldn’t see Him, He was at work through situations, circumstances, and especially through the failures in my life.

It was about 20 years ago that I sat in the floor of that bathroom, empty and without hope. 8 years ago, God gave me an eternal hope when He saved me.

So, why am I sharing all of this with you?

The simple answer is also the hardest answer.  People are hurting.  People are without hope.  They are without the one thing that can truly set them free.  It’s simple because we have that hope. It’s difficult because God wants us to be the ones to share that hope.  We have the answer that they are so desperately seeking in all of the wrong things.  We have opportunities every day to share that hope with this desperate and hurting world. We have Jesus.

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalms 9:9)

We are living in a world imprisoned by strongholds, oppressed on every side, but God is our stronghold.  He is a refuge for the hurting and the broken.

For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and He has not hidden His face from him, but has heard, when he cried to Him. (Psalms 22:24)

The world is full of people who are afflicted.  The night I sat down in that bathroom determined that I would die, the Lord was there with me. He had already determined that I would live. He heard my cries, and although I didn’t understand it at the time, He was working His perfect plan for my salvation.  I can look back on that night with confidence and comfort knowing that His plan was what was best for me, because the events that transpired in my life after that night led me to complete surrender.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Christian, do you believe this?  How are you living this out?

At church the other night someone mentioned the many trials a particular family had been going through and they mentioned how God was at work through them  and said they were “suffering well.”

What does it mean to suffer well? 

I doubt I can explain the depths of it in this post. Besides I’m already past the word limit for most of your average blog posts.  We live in a culture that has very little time to waste, and very little patience to work through the difficult things in life, much less a difficult blog post but for now I will say this:

People are watching us. Whether you realize it or not, they are watching you, and they are watching me.  They want to know if what we have is for real.  They’ve heard us talk the talk, but they need to see us walk the walk, and God will give us many opportunities to do this in the midst of suffering.

What happens whenever we suffer matters.

Treasuring Marriage & Family – A Resource Guide

Here is a collection of resources for you to use in the battle we must fight to preserve and protect our marriages and our families.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes “Marriage is more than your love for each other. Vastly more. Its meaning is infinitely great. I say that with care. The meaning of marriage is the display of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and His people”

How do we raise kids in a pornified culture? – 8 points on how we can raise our kids in a culture that glorifies pornography, and help teach them that Jesus Christ is the all-satisfying treasure of our lives.

Prayer – a fresh understanding of sub-mission. Sacrificing is not easy—it is work. And prayer is work. Oswald Chambers once said, “We don’t pray for the work; prayer is the work.” Because Jesus loves us, His sacrifices for us are evidenced by His continual intercession on our behalf. And because a husband loves his wife, it should naturally follow that he sacrifice for her with Christ-like intercession.

The Top 10 issues facing marriage and family today – Interesting list from Lifeway researchers.

Teaching your children spiritual truth – Phil Johnson writes a great piece on how we are called to teach our children spiritual truth.

The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle – download the free book from J.C. Ryle for the Nook, Kindle, or get the .pdf

Focus on the Family’s Marriage & Relationships website.  Here is a great resource for all things pertaining to your marriage.

Love and Respect – the official website of the best selling book and ministry.

The Generous Husband – I recently stumbled across this blog while researching for this month’s marriage theme.  I encourage you men to bookmark this blog.

The Generous Wife – To go alongside our link from yesterday here is the blog for The Generous Wife. Women should look into bookmarking this site as well.

Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God – What every Christian husband needs to know by CJ Mahaney – Sex is a gift from God to his people. It is to be enjoyed within marriage. This book teaches a husband how to cultivate the intimacy with his wife that God intends for him.

His Heart Trusts in Her – Few influences affect a man’s heart for God more than his wife, for better or for worse. She will either encourage his spiritual devotion to the Lord or she will hinder it. She will either enlarge his passion for God or she will pour cold water on it.

Restoring Your Broken Marriage – Healing after adultery – Anger…fear…despair…guilt…shame…when a marriage is broken by adultery, the core struggles of the heart are revealed. When one spouse has profoundly hurt the other, is it possible for their marriage to be healed?

“I’m going to stop pursuing my husband in the wrong ways” – From a wife who is determined to stop demanding things from her husband and to learn to give him space and allow him to make his own choices without trying to make him choose to give her attention, affection, phone calls, emails, texts, etc…

Love Links – A similar idea to the Daily Treasures posts, this blog features links focused on marriage.

Fearless and Persistent – Why how we pray matters

Learning to Serve the Lord as a married couple – Encouraging blog by Jolene Engle on how to serve God as a married couple.

To Trust… Or Not to Trust? – “I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have heard a heart-broken wife exclaim, “I thought I knew my husband! I just found out that he has been living a total lie our entire married life.”

Date Night Ideas – a collection of links focused on dating your spouse.

False Messages – False Messages is a book which seeks to help women, whether wives or wives-to-be, to understand the purpose and the power of sex and sexuality. It encourages them to put away the false messages they have believed about sex.

Children Desiring God – Ministry resources from the Children’s Desiring God website.

The Life of Christ – a One year look at the life of Christ for 365 days of family devotional time

“You and your spouse are created in the image and likeness of God. Marriage speaks to the world about the Nature of God. Since Satan cannot hurt God, he will hurt you, His image, or your marriage, His reflection. Satan will interfere with your marriage in any way inhumanly possible. If he can’t end the marriage, he will mar it to make it as imperfect a reflection of God as he can entice the two of you to make it.” – Garden of Holiness

When He Starts to Miss you – This will be a time of dying to self.  For believers in Christ-  that is a daily practice God desires all of us to do all throughout every single day.  We lay down our rights, our desires, our dreams, our plans, our lives, our expectations, our goals, our wisdom, everything we have, our future – and we pick up Jesus’ desires, His goals, His dreams, His plans, His wisdom, His power, His holiness, His will and we seek His greatest glory in all things.

The Original Two – Oh how little ones love to interrupt things. It comes from the beginning of life and needing everything and goes until they desire complete independence. When your kids get to an age where they can understand that interrupting conversations is not nice, it is a good time to stop allowing them to interrupt you and your hubby while you are talking. This is something that has really been a positive for both us- the original two and our kids. It gives us the time we need to talk and shows the kids that while we are a family, they are not the center of our world. It also is a great modeling of marriage for when they are married and have kids.

Ten Things About the Power of Words in Marriage – 10 things about how powerfully words can affect your marriage.

Ten Things to Bring Peace into Your Home – There may be no magic formula but there are 10 simply things that you can do to bring peace into your home.

Why God Shouldn’t Be Your Number One Priority – Make Him your all, God in Everything priority.

Are You Willing to Sacrifice Your Isaac? – I believe God tests each of us like this.  He wants us to know – that we don’t put anything or anyone above Christ in our hearts.  God can and does ask us to lay down the things that mean the most to us and the people we love the most.  He wants to see that we will obey and trust Him no matter what He asks us to sacrifice.  He wants to see that we are willing to give up the things in this world that mean the most to us for His sake.

The Truth About Who You Are – Sometimes it’s easy to forget who we are in Christ.  (free printable included).

Three P’s That Can Poison Your Marriage – Pennies, perversion, and pride. Selena and I have experienced each ‘poison’ for sure; there’s no getting around it. In fact, each poison tries to rear its ugly head and we’re often engaged in full blown warfare to keep them at bay.  They are truly poisonous, they will kill your marriage unless addressed with God’s help.

Anger is Scary – What I would like men to understand is that for many women an angry man is a scary thing. Even if he has never hurt her and she does not think he ever will, male anger is still scary for many (most?) women. Most women have had a couple of times when they had good reason to be fearful about what an angry man was going to do, and every woman knows another woman who has been hurt by an angry man.

Who’s Your Real Accountability Partner? – Jesus said that merely looking at a woman with lust is committing adultery. So even if we’ve kept the sin discreetly inside our minds, looked at magazines when nobody’s looking, or erased the porn history on our computers, its adultery by God’s definition – you know, the one that matters.

We Both Like – Take a piece of scratch paper and write down as many things as you can think of that you and your husband have in common.

For Hurting Husbands – I know for me my disrespect and control ran VERY, VERY deep to the core of my understanding of God and myself.  This was actually about my relationship with Christ – not so much about my relationship with my husband.  I would have treated any husband disrespectfully and I would have tried to control any man I was with because my sinful nature was in control all those years, not God’s Spirit.

A Thousand Little Choices – Every day we make choices. It might not feel like it, because we can get so used to life “as is” that we float through it without much thought. Even so, in the mindless moments there are a million tiny choices that we make every day.

Are We Loving Our Spouses the Way God intended? – If I truly understand the depth and beauty of the love of Jesus – the one and ONLY Son of God; who is without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), to take my place, and endure punishment on a cross that I deserve…if I begin to truly understand this, how can my response be anything other than (1) worship and (2) love for the people in my life. Most importantly, my husband.

God is Still Working – It’s too easy to be our spouse’s biggest critic. It’s too easy to think that he/she is not up to par. It’s too easy to get mad at our spouse for not meeting our expectations. It’s too easy for us to say, “If only my spouse would change ___, my life would be immeasurably better.”

I’m Not Sure He Really Loves Me – “Sin has consequences and God allows us to walk through those consequences on earth. He also allows us to go through pain, suffering, persecution and trials, but that does not diminish his love for each of us! He hurts when we hurt, even when we have brought it on ourselves. Because of Jesus, God already sees us as saints seated with Him, that is not something that happens just in heaven. He already sees us in that way.”

Dying to Self – This is not just some self-help “10 steps to controlling your husband and getting everything you want in your marriage by changing your words and tone of voice.”  My motives MATTER here!  If I am trying to obey God just to get the feelings I want or the response from my husband I want,  I have missed the entire point!

Seven Habits to Maintain When You Are Traveling – “Accountability is the best way to remind yourself that you’re not alone. I have a few people in my life that I trust to ask me the hard questions regarding my behavior. This is because I know I’m not perfect, and I know I will have weak moments.”

Three Simple Ways to Better Yourself and Your Marriage – “You can’t do it all! God made you with limitations on purpose. The sooner you realize this the more freedom you will have and the less stress too. One of Satan’s greatest weapons against us is making us feel like failures. You get frustrated because you can’t get up 2 hours early and go for a jog, lift weights, make a healthy breakfast, then sit down in a quite place read the Bible, journal, and pray until you hear a word from the Lord.”

50 Daily Kindnesses – Some great and very practical ways to love your spouse. Here are a few mentioned:Give an unexpected, romantic kiss. Buy Starbucks. Write a note and put it in their Bible. Let them sleep in. Men, hold the door open for her.Ladies, let him.

Resurrected Marriage – “We learnt the hard way that adultery doesn’t only happen in ‘bad’ marriages. We had what I, and everyone else believed to be a really good marriage: we were the lovey-dovey couple, we went to Church, and we even liked each other! We foolishly thought we didn’t need to set up boundaries because we believed that would never happen to us.”

Choosing Our Counselors Wisely – “We become like those we hang around.  We embrace the philosophies and ideas of those from whom we seek counsel.  Ideas, attitudes, sin, philosophies, priorities – these are ALL contagious!  Let’s choose VERY CAREFULLY what influences God desires us to surround ourselves with.”

Light Bearers – “I read someone’s status update on Facebook the other day and it said something like this,  Facebook has over a billion users.  Where is the church to minister to them? That statement struck me.  I couldn’t help but reflect on how much our culture has changed due to technology.  And being that I have an on-line ministry, of course this status update caused me to ponder my efforts, especially when I feel like I’m not making an impact here is this on-line space.”

Recovery After an Affair – How had it come to this? We had both been raised in church all our lives, we taught Sunday School, sang in the choir, we could quote scriptures, we had the perfect “fake” smiles, yet everything in our lives was falling apart. Our marriage was crumbling right before our very eyes. In the weeks that followed, my husband was filled with sheer panic, anxiety, grief, the what if’s and the why’s. Yet no matter how much pain I caused him, he never once wavered in his stance on marriage….‘til death do us part.

Five Ways to Bond With Your Husband – Many parents make the mistake in having their world revolve around the life of their kids.  The couple’s ‘thing’ to do together is to hang out with their children all the time.  Here’s the danger in this… at some point in their lives their kids will leave the nest, leaving the husband and wife to feel disconnected from one another.  As our kids become adults, their lives won’t revolve around us, nor should it!  If they marry someday they are to leave their family and cleave to their spouse.

Music Review: Sleeping Giant – Finished Peoples

Sleeping Giant has been one of my favorite hardcore metal bands ever since I saw them at the 2009 Ichthus Festival in Wilmore, Kentucky. Led by frontman Tommy Green, Sleeping Giant is a band to be reckoned with, and their latest release – Finished People shatters all notions of what it looks like to be a part of the Christian music scene.

Tom-of-Sleeping-GiantThe album starts off with a blistering track titled ‘Clutches’. The production and sound of this track is reminiscent of their Sons of Thunder release and songs like ‘Gang Signs’ and ‘No One Leaves This Room Sick’. Sleeping Giant doesn’t waste any time getting to the heart of the Gospel pounding out lyrics like:

“God Don’t let sinners fall into the hands of an angry judge. If not for love I never would have made it. Father, don’t let your people fall into the clutches of an angry world. Without your love we’re never going to make it.”

The second track ‘Overthrow’ is the song I believe sets the stage for the rest of this cd.   Thundering drums and a militant chorus define the rest of this release and this song is simply the appetizer whetting your appetite for what is to come. Brooke Reeves from the band Impending Doom lends his growls to the closing moments of the song and it’s monumental chorus “Kingdom Come and Overthrow.”

The songs only get better as it progresses. ‘Finished People’ the title track should please fans both new and old. I read in another review that the title song brings to light the plight of the finished people trapped within the Russian/Ukranian prison system. The song and album draws parallels of this to us as finished people to the world, having died to self to follow Christ and the hope that we have in this.

The production on Finished People is top knotch. This is the tightest I have ever heard Sleeping Giant sound. It has been amazing for me to see the progression of this band from their early days with their first release – Dread Champions of the Last Days in songs like ‘Dynasty,’  and ‘This is the Word’, to the tightly knit blistering technicalities of songs ‘Son of God, Son of Man’ and ‘Christus Victor’ on Finished People. Musically the band has soared on their latest release, and I look forward to seeing what kind of element their new songs bring to their live show.

Fans of Levi the Poet will be excited to hear him tear your heart out over the struggle we face when someone we love falls away from the faith on the song ‘Violence.’

‘Blood Meridian’ and ‘Victory’ stand out right now as two of my favorite tracks.   There is something majestic in the chorus section of these two songs that stand out to me above all the rest.

Sleeping Giant set the bar so high with their last release Kingdom Days in an Evil Age, that to be honest I didn’t think anything could come close to capturing that kind of energy and intensity, but after listening to Finished People I think they have set the bar for all bands in this genre.

There is only one thing that I don’t like about this cd and that is the running time – a very short 36 minutes and 15 seconds. This is a typical running time for many hardcore bands, but I would have loved to have seen it run about 15 minutes longer.

Sleeping Giant commands the sleepwalking within the church to awaken and spread the love of Jesus Christ across the world. Sleeping Giant, acting in unison as more than the sum of their parts, commands their brethren to break loose from the shackles of short-sightedness, laziness and arrogance and embrace all of God’s children. Their message is forthright, outspoken, militant and immediate. Their presentation is passionate, reverent and worshipful. Sleeping Giant is no mere band. Sleeping Giant is the sound of reckoning.Sleeping Giant | Facebook

Purchase Finished People here: http://www.cmdistro.com/Artist/Sleeping_Giant/91466

Track Listing:

  1. Clutches     3:32
  2. Overthrow     2:45
  3. Finished People     3:05
  4. Death Knell     3:13
  5. Son of God, Son of man     3:44
  6. Christus Victor     2:47
  7. Violence     3:03
  8. Brother’s Keeper     2:39
  9. The Great Divorce     3:14
  10. Blood Meridian     3:07
  11. Victory     5:05

Music Review: Least of These – Change Will Come

Least of These consists of 4 young men from the DFW area in Texas, who simply want to know Christ more deeply. Their goal as a band is to spread the gospel throughout the nations and love others in doing so. They are a band set on writing honest, passionate, and heartfelt lyrics put to music that is equally as passionate. Least of These is a band that doesn’t try to fit in a mold, but writes whatever is put on their hearts no matter what the sound is. Christ is the main reason this band exists and He gets all the glory.

least of these - change will comeIn 2011, the Christian indie-rock band  Least of These released an EP entitled More than Conquerors that captured my heart, with their raw style, emotionally engaging lyrics, and their heartfelt honesty. Many rock bands have a tendency to lean towards one of the other, but very rarely does a band get it right in all three of those areas.

I was enjoying their EP, but I fell in love with this band after hearing their song – The Call.

Scriptures call “Awake Oh Sleeper”
But the Church doesn’t hear
And the Spirit presses on our souls
But we close our hearts

To say that I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of their full length release – Change Will Come would be an understatement.

I was thinking about the words that I would use to describe their latest release, and as challenging as that has proven to be I have settled on this word – hypnotic.  There have only been a few releases from bands that have ever fully captured and engaged my entire soul while listening to them (My Epic, Ascend the Hill, and the Ember Days in case you were curious).

Musically, the band has matured above and beyond their sound from the More Than Conquerors release. Their combination of harmonies and melodies are mixed perfectly, the tempos interchange beautifully between songs, and the transition to some of the harder elements of the songs seem to fuel the emotional connections in each song.

Lyrically, every song leaves me captivated, engaged, convicted, and thankful for God’s grace and mercy.

Charles Spurgeon wrote “He would have His people supremely blessed, He would have every vessel of mercy full to the brim with the oil of joy; and the way to make us so is to give us the Gospel. ” I believe that sums up my experience listening to this cd.

I’ve never written a song by song review, much less an album review, but I’ve also never felt compelled to, that is until I heard this one.  So here is my track by track review of the 2013 release Change Will Come by Least of These.

The Son The Kingdom ft. Levi the Poet

The cd kicks off with a fantastic anthem, which will give you a great indication of what the rest of the cd has to offer. One of my favorite lines in the song – “You called me Your Son, and in Your eyes I’m not denied” is one of those great truths that will keep you going throughout the whole day.  Levi the Poet makes a very powerful presentation of the Great Commission in the midsection of the song which builds and builds to a powerful closure to the song.  It would be real easy just to stop right here and listen to the first song again before you go to the next song. But don’t do that, you don’t want to miss the next song.

Dealing At the Crossroads

This is one of my favorite songs which musically reminds me of My Epic (also one of my favorite bands). It begins softly “I heard the story of a man, who had breakfast with the devil”, and leaves us with “I heard the story of a man who had dinner with Jesus”. The song in essence is the Gospel, and it will grip you. The chorus is resounding with the words “Come and rest in My love, I’ll greet you with open arms, and I’ll love you forevermore.”

This is Confidence

This is probably the hardest song on the cd, with some of the greatest lyrics on the entire cd. “I know who I am, by looking at who You are.” I love the contrasting soft vocals against the screaming vocals, but it’s the middle of the song that totally draws me in.  The song transitions from a post-hardcore song to a beautiful mix of melodies that are sure to capture your heart.

Broken Record

This is another great song that describes the deception of the enemy, and how the writer is no longer willing to fall for it. “You’re darkness is no longer welcome inside my head.”  This song has a different feel from the other songs on the cd, but at the same time I believe it shows the bands growth and progression.

Exchanging the Truth for a Lie

A little bit of a slow down on this track about false idols. Lyrically this is probably my second favorite song on the cd.  I’ve found myself singing this song more than all the others.  The chorus alone is worth buying the entire cd.  I’ll just leave it at that and let you listen to this song.

Selah

A great musical interlude to help prepare you for the greatness of the next track and the shift of emotions that follow to the end of the cd.

Bearing in and Out

“I’m tired of running from all my convictions. You set me free from all my addictions.” A song about addiction, and one of the most emotionally charged songs on this cd.  This song reeks of a much needed honesty that is missing from so many artists today regardless of what your addiction is.  I also believe that this is the turning point of the entire cd as the next few songs address a lot of topics and thoughts that many artists strive to steer clear of.  I want to personally thank the band for this one.

When Seeing Still Isn’t Believing

A song about doubting God.  Some of the things the band touches on in this song are things we all struggle with.  Also for those of you who loved the  vibrato vocals on More Than Conquerors, you will hear some of that in this song.

Be Still and Know

I don’t like this song. There I said it. But the reason I don’t like it is because it convicts me. It’s hard to sing along with a song that convicts your heart. “I am the king of saying the right things.” It is a beautifully honest song however, and if I can get beyond the personal conviction one day I will love this song.

Change Will Come

What a perfect way to end this cd.  Beautiful words and melodies, and a powerful ending.   The only downside to this song is that it is indeed the last track.  But there is good news! After this song is over you can go back and listen to the entire cd again (unless you want to listen to the last track again).

Thanks guys for putting out one of the best releases of 2013. God bless.

Support the Band

An ANTHEM For Us to Proclaim

Brothers, we need accountability.

I know it, and even though guys don’t want to talk about it, I know that they understand there is a great need for it. We need accountability. There is too many things out there in the world trying to win over our affections, and if we are not careful, we will get hooked.

It is a daily battle for me. I need accountability. I need guidance, and I need to pursue Jesus above anything and everything else. So that’s why this post is so important. For many guys, it may be a first step needed. Our gaze needs to be fixed on Jesus not our situations or our circumstances.

1 Peter 5:8  says “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.”  We need to be vigilant, keeping a careful watch for possible dangers or difficulties.  The enemy loves to ensnare us, and if we aren’t ready for the traps that he sets, we will find ourselves caught before we even realize what is happening.

I am not a big fan of acronyms, but this is one that I have held onto in the midst of battle.  It is a tool that God has used to keep my focus on Him.  I had first heard of this acronym in a book by John Piper, and have since seen it in a few other places as well.

A.N.T.H.E.M

My prayer is that is will be a shield for you from the fiery darts of the enemy.

A void.

N o! Say it in 5 seconds.

T urn and trust in Him.

H old the pure things to mind (Phil. 4:8)

E njoy the promises of God instead.

M ove onto Christ-exalting activities.

caution-avoidAvoid.  Of course this is the first thing we should strive for.  If we are given the opportunity we need to avoid temptation at all cost.  That means being intentional about the choices we make, the movies we watch, and the music we listen to.  Whatever it may be, if it is something that you know may cause you to stumble, you need to avoid it at all cost.

Of course, that doesn’t always happen.  Most of the times, I don’t have to look far for temptation, it usually comes to me, which is where the second thing comes into play.

No! Say it within five seconds.  Sometimes we can’t avoid temptations, but we do have a choice what we do with it.  The first thing we need to do is simply say no, and do it quickly.  If you give a temptation longer than 5 seconds, you’ll likely give into it.  The longer you think about it, the weaker it will make you, and before long you’ll find yourself giving in.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Sometimes the way of escape is your own two feet. 

Turn Away, or Trust in Jesus.  Either one of these works well for the T.  I recommend Trust in Jesus, because there are a thousand “good things” you can turn away to, but if they don’t point you to trusting in Jesus, are they really worth investing in?

Hold the pure things in mind.  This is what I’d like to call the Philippians 4:8 section.  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

This has been a verse that we filter our lives through in my household.  If it doesn’t fall into the things described in that passage, we try to steer clear of it.

Enjoy the promises of God. The world would like to offer you a thousand different enjoyments every single day of your lives that will try to replace the ultimate joy of God’s promises for your life.  I call it counterfeit joy, because none of those things will give you the lasting joy that Jesus can.  God’s Word is filled with promises that far exceed anything the world can offer us, yet sadly we fall for the allurements the world has, time and time again.

Move onto Christ-exalting things. Lingering in the wrong things can be dangerous.  Don’t linger around or in temptation, move onto things that will exalt the name of Jesus in your life.  If you’re going to linger, linger in prayer.  Linger in His Word.

A.N.T.H.E.M. is only a tool that can help point you to Him.  Whenever we face temptation, we need to be pointed to Him instead.  Jesus is what we need. We don’t need anymore empty promises of “try harder next time” we need Jesus. That’s the goal and my prayer for you and what I hope A.N.T.H.E.M. will do in your heart as you focus on the only One who can deliver us from the daily temptations of life.

The goal is more than just accountability, it’s about finding Jesus. It’s about brothers helping brothers find their ultimate satisfaction in Jesus Christ and Him alone.  The ANTHEM of our hearts should be the power of the Gospel to say no to sin because we have found the ultimate joy in Jesus.

Armor Up, Stand firm, Pray.

Book Review: Ordinary by Tony Merida

In a world being inundated with books calling for a radical, weird, or crazy kind of Christianity it is refreshing to see someone write a book about ordinary Christianity. Pastor Tony Merida, the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina shares his heart and soul in a book that calls Christians to make an impact on the world through ordinary Christianity. If this book had been written a few years ago it would have been quickly tossed aside. No one sells books talking about doing ordinary things do they? Aren’t we all looking for the glamorous and romantic idea of selling off our goods, downsizing our lifestyle, or moving overseas to impact unreached people groups for the glory of God and the sake of the nations?

ordinary-book-cover-tony-meridaTony Merida is convinced that we can make an impact by practicing ordinary Christianity through such things as humble acts of service, loving our neighbors, and showing hospitality towards others. Tony begins the book by sharing how a simple Bible study on social justice in which he prepared for a youth group shook the very core of his faith causing him to reevaluate everything he had ever taught or believed in.

The foundation for the book is calling Christians to “do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” – Micah 6:8. The book looks at practical ordinary ways which we can make a difference in the world without compromising the Gospel. Merida shares many of the same struggles that we all face when confronting the issues of social justice. Many churches and ministries lean too far towards social justice issues and neglect the Gospel while others do the complete opposite. Merida brings balance to both sides while challenging our perceptions of social justice issues and particularly those who aren’t really sure what they need to do.

The book begins drawing heavily on the life of William Wilberforce who was a prominent leader in the movement to abolish the slave trade in the early 1800’s. The reader is encouraged through a brief cursory look at his life and his desire to humbly submit himself to the Lord through a life of meditating on God’s word and through prayer.

Merida calls us to surrender our lives to meditate on the Word of God believing the Word will cause ordinary Christians to live extraordinary lives.

“Personal heart transformation doesn’t happen simply by information transfer. It happens, as you adore God, based on His revelation of Himself if the Word. If we can behold Him, admire Him, esteem, Him, enjoy Him, be captivated by Him, then we will imitate Him.”

This short book (five chapters) is packed with much practical and theological help to show us how to live with Gospel-intentionality being a voice for the voiceless and a father to the fatherless while staying rooted in the truth of the Gospel. I’ve read many books that have a strong focus on alleviating suffering and fail to stress the importance of the Gospel, but this book always brings the reader back to the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

“Mercy ministry is about alleviating suffering. Those who want to alleviate suffering should want to alleviate more than temporary suffering. They should also want to alleviate eternal suffering, which can only come through faith in Christ.”

Tony Merida shows us that being an ordinary Christian works. It works to further the Gospel by being the hands and feet of Jesus to a world who is in desperate need of something beyond simply having their felt needs met. Ordinary is a great resource for those who are trying to understand the difference between sensationalism and practicing a life of justice and mercy.

About the Author:
Tony Merida is the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. Tony is the author of Faithful Preaching, co-author of Orphanology, and serves as a general editor and as contributor to the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series (B&H Publishing Group) along with David Platt and Danny Akin. He is married to Kimberly, with whom he has five adopted children.

Book Review: Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace To Us

Grace is messy. If I could sum up the latest book by Preston Sprinkle in three words that is what I would say. Preston Sprinkle is the director of Eternity Bible College’s extension site in Boise, Idaho. Preston made his impact on the evangelical world a few years ago when he co-authored a book with Francis Chan titled Erasing Hell.

Charis-Book-ReviewThe question that came to mind before I began reading Charis is one that many of us wrestle with. Do we really need another book on grace? Christian bookstores have become so inundated with books on this topic that many of them have their own grace section in the book store.

Preston admits his own struggles to that question, and his book titled Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace For Us is the answer. The original Greek word for grace is charis (with a hard “ch” like karis) which simply means ‘gift’. The book begins unfolding the premise of charis and the many misconceptions that come with trying to define exactly what grace is. The term has become a buzzword in Christian circles, and the power of transforming grace seems to be missing all together.

Each chapter of the book takes us through a vivid and sometimes shocking picture of grace in the Old Testament. Preston takes our glamorized picture of the Old Testament heroes and shows us the reality of their own struggles and how God chose to use them despite their many flaws, failures, and laundry list of sins.

Preston uses very coarse language at times, and this is really my only issue with the book itself. While what he says is true, he seems to push the boundaries of language for the sake of the shock factor itself. Some of the title chapters reflect his intentions to shock the reader, and at one point in the book, he admits himself that he shares some pretty harsh word pictures to drive the point home. Of course conservative Christians are likely not his target audience, but they will certainly benefit from the theology behind each chapter. Preston is speaking directly to the person who has been rejected, shamed, hurt, and burned out by religion in itself. There were certainly a few times I would read something wishing that he would have worded things a little differently, but it was also a reminder of the grace I am to extend to others.

The book drives home the truth that throughout the Scriptures it is clearly evident that God uses sinful, broken, and rebellious people to accomplish His will.

The last chapter of the book should address any concerns of the skeptic, who will likely accuse Sprinkle of using grace as a license to sin. Preston shares his theological underpinnings in the Epilogue titled ‘Where Does Obedience fit in’?   Preston agrees with the Apostle Paul who says in Romans Chapter 6:1-2 “Should we continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!”

I would recommend Charis to anyone who wants to understand grace in a deeper, yet more practical way, who isn’t going to be offended by gritty language (though not vulgar). I appreciate how Preston humanizes the Old Testament Saints in such a way that gives us all hope that God can and will use us despite our flaws. If you are interested in how to reach broken people in a dark world, you will benefit from this book.

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This review has been published and shared through Netgalley.